Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
TODAY IS
December 18
1853 - Premiere of Camille Saint-Saens's First Symphony, in Paris.

1892 - Premiere of Anton Bruckner's Eighth Symphony in Vienna. Was completed in September 1887, but publisher Hermann Levi rejected it. Revised and premiered in Vienna with Hans Richter conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.

1920 - Conductor Arturo Toscanini made his first recording for Victor Records.

1929 - Premiere of Anton Webern's Symphony for Chamber Orchestra, in NYC.

1964 - Premiere of Paul Creston's Concerto for Koto and Orchestra, koto soloist Kimio Eto, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting.

1981 - About 35 million people in 23 countries watched a Rod Stewart concert live via satellite.

1999 - Premiere of André Previn's Three Dickinson Songs, soprano René Fleming, pianist Richard Bado in Quebec.  (Previn is the husband of violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.)
Can You Guess?
You can get a nice violin for several thousand dollars.  Can You Guess what a Stradivarius violin costs?

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Antonio Stradivari was one of the best violin makers the world has ever known.  We have no direct evidence of his birth, but it is believed that he was born in a village near the town of Cremona.  Sources date his birth in 1644, 49 and 50.

Antonio was the son of Alessandro Stradivari and Anna Moroni.  He was apprenticed to famed violin maker Amati around 1658, and may have remained in the shop until Amati's death in 1684.
Although some journals indicate that Stradivari may have been producing violins by 1660, the first documented example we have of one of Stradivari's violins is from 1666.  The label inserted in the violin reads "Antonius Stradiuarius Cremonensius Alumnus Nicolaij Amati, Faciebat Anno 1666,"  and is sealed with his traditional cross and the initials AS.
"The Messiah" by Stradivari.  1716.  Click Photo for Full Size Image
Antonio Stradivari
1644?-1737
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Did You Guess?
Stradivarius violins have sold for more than $1,500,000.
In 1680 Stradivari set up a shop for himself in the Piazza San Domenico, a location he would maintain until his death. He began to show even more  originality.  The arching of the instruments' bellies was altered.  The thicknesses of the woods used were more exact.  The scroll was altered.  And the varnish on the instrument was more supple and highly colored.  In 1682 the Venetian banker Michele Monzi ordered a complete set of instruments to be presented to King James II. of England.

From 1698 to 1725 Stradivari was at the height of his ability.  The instruments produced during this time show the choice of woods to be impeccable, and the characteristic gentle arching of the instruments' bellies.  Interior workmanship has been improved to the extent that it is equal to that on the outside finish, the outlines are designed with taste and purity, the wood is rich and carefully selected, the arching falls off in gentle and regular curves, the scroll is carved with great perfection, and the varnish is fine and supple. Stradivari also perfected the shape and placement of the bridge.  The quality of the instruments produced 1725-30 had fallen somewhat, and after 1730 many are signed "sub disciplina Stradivarii." These were probably crafted by Antonio's sons Francesco and Omobono.
As time went on, Stradivari began to alter the design produced in Amati's workshops.  Amati's instruments were delicate and very finely crafted, but Stradivari began to produce a more "masculine" design.  The corners were short and blunt.  The f-holes were more angular in their curves, and placed somewhat closer together.
The influence of Stradivari is immense.  His designs have been copied by most luthiers since his death.  The only major alteraton on Stradivari's design has been the bass bar under the bridge.  In Stradivari's time the pitches to which the violin were tuned were lower.  The A, which is currently tuned at 440 hz. (with some orchestras tuning as high as 442) was tuned to 412-415 hz.  The result of this tightening of the strings is more pressure on the instrument.  As such, most (if not all) of Stradivari's instruments still being played have been re-barred to deal with the higher pitches.

Besides violins, Stradivari made harps, guitars, violas and cellos.  The Music Museum of the Palacio Real in Madrid, Spain holds two violins, two violas and a cello.  The U.S. Library of Congress holds three violins, a viola and a cello.

Stradivari died on today's date, December 18, in 1737, and was buried in the Basilica of San Domenico.
“'Tis God gives skill, but not without men's hand: He could not make Antonio Stradivarius's violins without Antonio”            -George Eliot
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